Seasonal flu is a contagious respiratory illness that is caused by influenza viruses. The flu season can start as early as October and can continue into May. Flu viruses spread from human to human through droplets from coughing and sneezing. The virus can cause mild to severe illness and, at times, can lead to death. People at high-risk of serious flu complications include young children, pregnant women, people with chronic health conditions like asthma, diabetes or heart and lung disease and people 65 years of age and older. Flu symptoms usually start suddenly and can include:
- Extreme tiredness
- Dry cough
- Sore throat
- Runny or stuffy nose
- Muscle aches
- Vomiting or diarrhea may occur in children, but is uncommon in adults
A flu shot is the best way to prevent the flu. Flu vaccines are developed based on recommendations from the World Health Organization. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, everyone 6 months of age and older should get vaccinated against the flu as soon as the 2014-2015 season vaccine is available. It’s important to get vaccinated every year. Vaccination of high-risk individuals is especially important to decrease their risk of severe flu illness. Talk to your doctor about whether you should get the flu shot.
Adopting these good health habits can also help stop the spread of germs:
- Wash your hands often with soap and water. If soap and water are not available, use an alcohol based hand rub
- Cover your nose and mouth with a tissue or sleeve when you cough or sneeze. Throw tissues in the trash after you use them
- Do not touch your eyes, nose or mouth with your hands
- Avoid crowded areas
- Keep away from people who have the flu.
- Clean surfaces and objects regularly
If you do get the flu, be prepared to stay home until your fever is gone for 24 hours without taking any medicine. Most people will feel better in 7 to 10 days. If you are pregnant or have a chronic disease, see a doctor within the first 48 hours. You should also see your doctor if you have any of the following symptoms:
- Difficulty breathing or shortness of breath
- Pain or pressure in the chest or abdomen
- Severe or persistent vomiting
- Sudden dizziness
- Flu-like symptoms that improve but then return with fever and a worse cough
Looking for flu information online can be helpful, but make sure you use trusted resources, such as the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention at cdc.gov/flu and the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services at flu.gov/.
For videos and public service announcements about the seasonal flu, visit http://www.cdc.gov/flu/freeresources/media.htm.
For questions about seasonal flu, call a Blue Health SolutionsSM health coach at 1.866.262.4764 or (TTY) 1.877.720.7771, weekdays, between 8 a.m. and 8 p.m. ET.